Wisconsin ranks highly in organic farm categories

​Ray Mueller


Becoming familiar with organic labeling allows consumers to make informed decisions about the products they purchase.

Statistics for certified organic production in 2015 were highlighted in a recent issue of the Wisconsin Farm Reporter, which is published every two weeks by the state's field office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Based on the NASS survey, which was the fourth one conducted since 2008, Wisconsin ranks second among the states with 1,200 farms making organic product sales. This is an increase from 834 such operations in 2011.

Being surpassed by New York since 2011, Wisconsin stands third in the number of acres of land in certified organic production with 209,615. This is an increase from 174,044 acres in 2011.

The value of sales to organic producers in Wisconsin jumped from $132.5 million in 2011 to $222.4 million in 2015, an increase of 68 percent. The average organic farm in Wisconsin during 2015 had 174 acres and sales of $185,000, while the averages for the United States was 340 acres and $485,000 in sales.

California the leader

California continues to be the leader among the states in all but one of the categories for certified organic production. For 2015, those numbers were 2,588 operations making sales, 790,413 acres in production and more than $2.435 billion in sales — up by 75 percent from 2011.

Washington's $1.051 million in average sales during 2015 for its 596 certified organic operations topped California's average of $941,000 per farm. With 912 operations and $220.9 million in sales, New York was joined by Washington and Pennsylvania among the top 10 states in more than doubling their sales from 2011 to 2015.

The United States had 12,703 certified organic operations in 2015 — up from 8,516 in 2011. They had nearly 4.362 million crop acres and enjoyed sales worth $6.163 billion. All states reported having at least three certified organic operations with 27 states having more than 100 each. Each of the 13 states in the northern tier of the continental United States had at least 100 certified organic farms.

Wisconsin statistics

Milk from dairy cows accounted for 56 percent of Wisconsin's sales value for organic production in 2015. More than $124.733 million in milk sales was produced by 26,553 cows, according to the Dec. 31, 2015 inventory, on 439 farms in the state.

The raising of other cattle and calves was worth more than $11 million for organic producer income during 2015 in Wisconsin. There were 480 operations that sold a total of 15,450 head during the year, while the Dec. 31 inventory counted 24,131 head.

Wisconsin also had 52 organic certified beef operations with 1,865 head in 2015. Sales in that category of 223 head were made by 29 farms for a total value of $352,800.

Other livestock categories

Sales of 1,812 hogs and pigs by 10 of the 14 certified operations in the state provided an income of $824,865. The state's four certified sheep and lamb growers sold 160 head for $52,600 during 2015.

Wisconsin had 96 operations raising layer chickens with a year-end inventory of just under 500,000 birds. Forty-three of them sold 183,996 birds in 2015 for a total of $154,736. There were 94 organically certified sellers of more than 9 million dozen eggs during 2015 in Wisconsin.

The NASS survey report also indicated that Wisconsin has three certified growers of turkeys and two each of milking goats and goats and kids.

Field crop categories

Wisconsin's certified organic farms grew a wide range of field crops that were worth a total of nearly $28 million in sales during 2015. Corn for grain was the leader in that category with 574 growers harvesting nearly 2.653 million bushels from 26,322 acres. The state had 335 growers of corn for grain who sold more than 1.139 million bushels with a value of nearly $11.509 million in 2015.

There were 563 harvesters of dry hay with 397 growing alfalfa and 193 growing other species for hay. The sellers of 50,500 tons of that hay earned $7.044 million. In the haylage category, there were 299 growers with 30,376 acres and 66 sellers of 16,811 tons for more than $1.994 million.

The number of certified growers listed for other field crops were 245 for oats, 210 for corn silage, 187 for soybeans, 113 for barley, 87 for wheat, 36 for rye and 11 for dry edible beans.

In those categories, the sellers supplied 87,782 bushels of oats that sold for $508,371, a total of 160,500 bushels of soybeans for $3.515 million and 106,233 bushels of wheat for $1.101 million. Other sales volumes and value were 9,335 bushels of rye for $99,544, 5,780 tons of corn silage for $395,074 and 6,271 hundredweight of dry edible beans for $505,345.

Fruits and vegetables

Hundreds of Wisconsin's certified organic growers also engaged in the production of fruits, vegetables, maple syrup and nuts. The total value of that production in 2015 was $25 million.

The 366 growers and sellers of potatoes, vegetables and melons accounted for $23.246 million of that sales value. Other sales totals were nearly $1.164 million for berries (cranberries worth $866,443 along with strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and other berries).

Twenty-four certified apple growers with 68 acres sold 146,624 pounds in 2015 for $169,817. The 7,677 gallons of maple syrup sold by 23 organically certified processors were worth $395,018. Three certified growers of nuts had sales worth $5,428 during 2015.

Complete results of the 2015 Certified Organic Survey are available at